Cut up some tomatoes and sprinkle parsley (or something small and green) on them: Voila! A salad. And sardines? Turns out some people love ‘em. As a salad. Which comes before the cheese (either before or after the main course, preferably both).
In France, it is totally ok and accepted to strip down to your underwear anywhere, anytime, and with only the slightest bit of reasoning necessary (i.e. the sun’s out and I want a tan, changing clothes, I think my pants might smell funny -- bonus points if you’re wearing pink briefs with red hearts... that’s what the guy out my window in the parking lot has on as I type these words from my car).
You know those conversations where someone with a strong lung capacity is talking and talking and talking and you are distracted by a TV or something? You just sort of nod and say ‘yeah’ and ‘uh-huh’ and maybe occasionally throw in a ‘no kidding?!’ or ‘wow...’ Yeah, well those are surprisingly easy to have in a language you struggle to understand. Take French for example. All you need is ‘oui’, ‘ah bon?’, ‘bien sûr!’, and ‘ahh’. And no distraction needed. A tree trunk will do.
Seriously though, there had better be cheese at dinner. Cheddar is not acceptable, and Velveeta’s not cheese.
The French countryside is surprisingly alluring. It’s not so different from a bunch of farms or the sticks in the States, and yet it is. The farm land is rolling and beautiful. There’s giant watering devices and tractors, but you don’t see super-industrialized farms nor do you see broken down cars on blocks in front of houses with weeds taller than the front door. I shake my head at the high-society French as much as anybody, but it works in the countryside. It makes it really inviting actually. Less scary. And the villages are all old, small, and strong stone and brick buildings with a ton of character. Every village has an ancient and beautiful church (long since last used) in the middle, and there’s probably a bakery and a butcher shop and that’s about it.
Still on the theme of rurality: village/country festivals are soooo much better here than their American counterparts. Well better if you are going to take a date, not better if you want an evening of choked-down chuckles and mullet-watching. They have stands of fresh meat cooked up to steaks, crepes with local jams, lots of local products to sample and buy, sorbets, and of course every local cheese and wine and plenty of bread. There’s also live music, usually jazz. And they are always held somewhere beautiful, like in a town square around a fountain by the aforementioned church or in a field at the top of a wall overlooking the countryside from the ancient walled city. It really is nice. If only they weren’t overrun with British vacationers...
A common topic of conversation among people who know me is whether or not there exists a slower eater in all the world. The answer is yes. There are 65,447,374. The entire country of France. I could eat two, three, maybe four meals in the time they do one. Unless it’s all-you-can-eat shrimp night at Red Lobster, then I think I could go longer. Man I could go for a Red Lobster in France.
I’ve been bitten by West Nile mosquitoes in Kentucky, Malaria (infected) mosquitoes in Tanzania, and monstrous mosquitoes in Mexico, but I think the wee little French mosquitoes hurt worse than all of them at first bite. And with that, I’m done. Gotta get inside.